6 of the best cruises for keen photographers to book now - Cruise International

6 of the best cruises for keen photographers to book now

By Joanna Booth | 15 Sep 2022

Secret Atlas photography cruises

Secret Atlas photography cruises. Picture: Andy Marsh

Pretty-as-a-picture views, eye-catching portraits or thrilling wildlife sightings? Here are some of the best cruises for keen photographers

Norway photography cruises

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Northern Lights in Norway. Credit: Stian Klo

Capturing the Aurora Borealis on camera is a thrill – the colours look even brighter through a lens. When the sky puts on a show, you want to be far away from light pollution, so being on board ship is ideal. Hurtigruten’s classic Norwegian coastal voyages spend half the itinerary above the Arctic Circle, maximising the chances of seeing the phenomenon.

In fact, the cruise line is so confident it offers a Northern Lights Promise – another free voyage if they fail to show. You’ll need a camera with manual settings and a tripod. Hurtigruten recommends choosing a wide-angle lens, setting your focus to infinity, your aperture to f4 or lower, and your ISO high, at 800 or above. Experiment with your shutter speed to see what gets the best results.

Hurtigruten’s 12-day Classic Round-trip Voyage sailing from Bergen to Kirkenes and back starts from £1,596, during the auroral season of October to March (hurtigruten.co.uk).

The Rhine photography cruises

Basel, Switzerland, on the Rhine. Picture: SCStock/Shutterstock

From the steep-sided, castle-spotted Rhine Gorge and the shaded paths of the Black Forest to the canals of Amsterdam and the half-timbered houses of Bernkastel, the views on cruises down the Rhine and Moselle are some of the prettiest in Europe.

On selected sailings with Avalon Waterways, you’ll be joined by photographer Brenda Tharp, who’ll share onboard presentations, lead photo walks and oversee a fun contest to select the best shots taken on the cruise.

She says: “Early morning and late afternoon are usually the best times for interesting light. Since the boat is often docked at the start of the day, try to take an early-morning walk before breakfast to experience and photograph the town without all the tourists. When photographing from a moving boat, keep your shutter speed fast enough to prevent scenes from coming out blurred. And don’t rest your camera or arms on the boat rail – you’ll transmit vibrations.”

The 12-day Rhine & Moselle with One Night in Amsterdam for Photography Enthusiasts on board Avalon Imagery II departs on October 5 and starts from £2,971 (avalonwaterways.co.uk).

South Pacific photography cruises

Tadine Bay, Maré Island, New Caledonia. Picture: Getty Images/iStock Photo/Alexander Hafemann

The French Overseas Territory of New Caledonia is a quintessential South Pacific idyll, where lush, tropical vegetation nestles around inky limestone cliffs and the clear waters are home to vibrant coral reefs where turtles swim.

Ponant’s voyage has been created in partnership with National Geographic, and Le Soleal will travel with both an expert and a photographer from the brand on board, helping to give you deeper insight into both the local Kanak culture and plenty of tips on how to capture the best possible shots of this beautiful region.

It’s of the utmost importance to respect traditions, and guests should exchange greetings as well as bring a small gift when visiting Kanak clans. French is widely spoken, so ‘bonjour’ and ‘merci’ will go a long way.

And don’t forget to ask permission before taking any photos – some people might not be comfortable with being photographed, and various structures are considered sacred. To make the most of the bounteous marine life, invest in an underwater case to protect your phone.

The 10-night Pacific Islands Discovery, sailing from Noumea to Auckland, departs on November 22 and starts from £4,330 (uk.ponant.com).

Antarctica photography cruises

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Viking guest on the Viking Octantis in Antarctica. Credit: Viking Cruises

Pure light, pristine terrain and unique wildlife make Antarctica one of the most rewarding cruise destinations for budding photographers. Days spent trekking over ice or speeding through the frigid waters in a Zodiac throw up chances to shoot epic landscapes and dramatic animal encounters, from breaching whales and slumbering seals to raucous penguin rookeries.

Viking Cruises’ resident photographer, Alastair Miller, advises: “Bring extra camera batteries, because they drain quickly in low temperatures. As you move from the cold exterior to the warm ship, condensation will fog up your lens. One solution is to bring a sealable airtight bag to put your camera and lenses in, so they can slowly adjust to a warmer temperature.

“However, on board Viking Octantis, each stateroom comes with its own drying cabinet for wet clothes, and I discovered that by putting my cameras in there, in the time it took to have lunch they would be all nicely condensation-free for the afternoon.”

The 13-day Antarctic Explorer on Viking Octantis – with a Viking photographer on board – starts from £12,995 including return flights from the UK, based on November 2022 departures (viking.com).

The Hebrides photography cruises

Castle Stalker, west coast of Scotland

Castle Stalker, west coast of Scotland. Picture: Gary Barber

No passport flexing is necessary on this close-to-home, small-ship cruise that sails around the far-flung and photogenic Hebridean islands. Soaring sea cliffs, wild-flower meadows, white-sand bays and oak forests are home to red deer, sea eagles and puffins.

Sailing with you on board the 12-passenger Seahorse II is Gary Barber, a photographer who first experienced the cruise as a guest and now returns each year as an expert tutor.

“Keep your eyes peeled,” he says. “Wildlife waits for no man, and you never know when a pod of dolphins could appear or an eagle might swoop in for a kill. Choose a fast shutter speed to capture the action, and leave your ISO setting on auto. You’ll be switching quickly between different backgrounds and won’t have time to manually adjust to suit the light levels.”

St Hilda Sea Adventures’ seven-night Isles of Mull and Small Isles Explorer: Photography Tutor Onboard trip departs August 19, 2023, and starts from £2,170 (sthildaseaadventures.co.uk).

Svalbard photography cruises

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Svalbard. Credit: Secret Atlas/Florian Ledoux

The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is one of the world’s best places to see polar bears in the wild and, because they roam over ice floes and the shoreline, a ship is the best vehicle to track them in. And if you want to take the best pictures, then expert photographer Florian Ledoux, whose recent credits include Disney’s recent Polar Bear documentary, is the man to help.

Ledoux will accompany a Svalbard cruise with small-ship polar operator Secret Atlas, sailing on high-spec, 12-guest expedition vessel Explorer. As well as polar bears, you’ll have the chance to spot walrus and whales among the glaciers and icebergs, and with a May sailing, you’ll have 24-hour daylight to make the most of every photo opportunity.

If you’re wondering what kit to bring, Ledoux recommends a full-frame camera, plus a long lens of at least 400mm. “I also use a 60-600mm zoom which allows different framing – if you’re stuck on a Zodiac, for instance. But technical parameters only matter so much. Be open to anything – there is beauty all around the place!”

The nine-day Natural Wonders of Svalbard Photo Tour departing May 13, 2023, starts from £7,500 for an en-suite double cabin (secretatlastravel.com).

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